DEDHAM, MASS. (WHDH) - Teachers in Dedham are on strike for the second day on Saturday amid a contract dispute, prompting classes to be put on hold indefinitely.
The teachers union and Dedham Public Schools met Thursday in an attempt to reach a new contract after nearly two years of negotiations, but both sides left disappointed.
The school committee released a statement on Saturday saying, “We have a negotiating session set for 3pm this afternoon. The Superintendent and the School Committee’s negotiating team are entering these talks with the intentions of getting a deal done. And we are committed to stay at the table until we get a deal. We want to get our kids back in school.”
Educators say they are fighting for better benefits, increased wages, new policies for students’ use of technology and a means for addressing sexual harassment.
“The members of the DEA have not been treated fairly or with any sort of respect since we started bargaining this contract nearly two years ago,” said Dedham Education Association President Tim Dwyer. “We were pushed into taking this extreme step and want to return to the bargaining table so we can get back to the classroom.”
The Massachusetts Teacher’s Association released a statement expressing their support for the strike, reading in part, “With their inadequate proposals and their snail’s pace of bargaining, the superintendent and School Committee have sent a clear message: We do not value the educators who teach our children.”
School officials also released a statement saying they are “disheartened” that the union walked away from the table instead of continuing to work toward an agreement.
“Unfortunately, the ones most hurt by this decision are the students and their families,” officials continued. “With all District decisions, the security and emotional well-being of our PreK – 12 students is of foremost concern.”
The vote to strike comes weeks before both sides are scheduled to meet with an independent arbitrator for a fact-finding session where both sides will work to reach a fair contract.
“We take the concerns of our educators very seriously and we have been working very hard over these last 21 months to reach an agreement on a fair contract,” Superintendent Michael Welch said at a press conference. “We are eager to return to the negotiating table to hear the unions counter-proposal to our most recent offer and work through the differences that have led us to this strike.”
Welch did announce that they had received a ruling from the Mass. Department of Labor Relations calling the strike illegal.
Dwyer said that despite this, the teachers still planned to picket outside the schools at 6:30 a.m.
“We spend a lot of time teaching our students to stand up for themselves and for what’s right and our members decided yesterday that it was time to stand up for we believe in,” Dedham High School teacher Rachel Dudley said while picketing Friday morning.
Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III brought coffee and doughnuts for the striking teachers as a show of support.
“The fact that you got all these teachers here that are forced to break the law in order to fight for what they deserve, I think it’s a greater question as to why their structures are set up like that in the first place,” Kennedy said.
There was no school for preschool through grade 12 students in the seven district schools on Friday.
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